Ministry for Primary Industries v Arthur [2019] NZDC 10159

Published 23 October 2019

Discharge without conviction — gravity of offending — importing large quantities of plant material knowing that it was unauthorised — Biosecurity Act 1993 — Sentencing Act 2002, ss 106 & 107. The defendant appeared for sentence on four charges (two of them representative) of illegally importing plant material in breach of the Biosecurity Act. The plant material included muse corms, seeds and seedlings, from species including jackfruit, rambatan, papaya, tamarind and banana. The defendant had imported the material covertly, requesting the overseas senders to provide false customs declarations descriptions of the plant material. He pleaded guilty to the charges and sought a discharge without conviction. To grant a discharge without conviction, the Court must assess the gravity of the offending, identify the consequences of a conviction, and decide if the consequences of a conviction are out of proportion to the gravity of the offending. The Court considered that the gravity of the offending was moderately serious, given the high statutory penalties for the offence, the large quantity of the material imported, and the potential biosecurity risks to the country. The defendant had argued that a conviction would have the consequence of preventing him from traveling overseas to conduct research on the lawful importation of plants and seeds into New Zealand. The Court found no evidence that a conviction would either prevent the defendant from traveling or from lawfully importing seeds and plants. The Court rejected another submission from the defendant that amounted to an argument that the proper operation and administration of the Biosecurity Act was a threat to the country. Therefore, the consequences of a conviction were not out of proportion to the gravity of the offending. The Court dismissed the application. Judgment Date: 23 May 2019.